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Cynic biography
CYNIC was formed in November, 1987 by guitarist Paul Masvidal and drummer Sean Reinert. To finish up the lineup, Mark Van Erp (later of MONSTROCITY) was added on bass and a friend named Jack Kelly was added on vocals thus making CYNIC a four-piece. This early incarnation of CYNIC was focused on making only brutal death metal with primary influence taken from bands such as VENOM, POSSESSED, KREATOR and DESTRUCTION. It is this lineup that would later be featured on the release of their first, self-titled demo in 1988.

After Jack left in 1988, Paul took over vocal duties, Jason Gobel was added on guitar and and in 1989, they cut their second demo, entitled "Reflections Of A Dying World", consisting of four songs. All of the songs on this demo were of the speed metal/thrash genre, with even some punk elements incorporated within. This lineup soon began touring the south Florida area and bootlegs exist of them as far back as May of 1988. Soon after, Mark left the band, Tony Choy was added on bass and in 1990, CYNIC released their third demo (also self-titled). This helped to gain them a large following throughout southern and central Florida, as well as their constant touring and cameo appearances in the south Florida area. This new lineup would remain intact until at least 1991.

At this time, the bands' influences were already starting to change. While they were still listening to contemporaries like ATHEIST, and were still inspired by seeing how "sick" some bands would get to express themselves, their technical, musical and creative abilities were growing, and consequently, they began listening to more technical forms of music. Their primary influences soon included jazz and fusion, such as Chick Corea and Allan Holdsworth, but also bands such as WATCHTOWER and Frank ZAPPA. This change in technical abilities had already made its way into their songs as the band took a great leap forward in musicianship for their second and third demos.

By the early part of 1991, CYNIC had evolved into a progressive speed/death metal type band, although the band themselves didn't really consider themselves to be death metal. The music had the technicality of progressive speed metal, with the brutality and vocal qualities of death metal. They cut a fourth and final demo in 1991 (financed by RoadRunner Records) consisting of three tracks. Two of these tracks would, in a drastically different form, make it onto their debut album. In April of 1991, Paul and...
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Uroboric Forms - The Complete Demo RecordingsUroboric Forms - The Complete Demo Recordings
Special Edition
Century Media 2017
Audio CD$12.99
Season of Mist 2012
Audio CD$7.29
$7.28 (used)
Remastered · Extra tracks
Roadrunner Records 2004
Audio CD$6.00
$4.40 (used)
Kindly Bent to Free UsKindly Bent to Free Us
Season of Mist 2014
Audio CD$5.16
$6.94 (used)
The Portal TapesThe Portal Tapes
Season of Mist 2012
$147.00 (used)
Season of Mist 2012
Audio CD$3.32
$3.08 (used)
Season of Mist 2012
Audio CD$7.09
$3.65 (used)
Uroboric Forms - The Complete Demo RecordingsUroboric Forms - The Complete Demo Recordings
Limited Edition
Century Media 2017
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CYNIC discography

Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help to complete the discography and add albums

CYNIC top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.21 | 476 ratings
4.13 | 463 ratings
Traced In Air
3.55 | 150 ratings
Kindly Bent To Free Us

CYNIC Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

CYNIC Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

CYNIC Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

CYNIC Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

2.08 | 12 ratings
'88 Demo
1.78 | 11 ratings
Reflections of a Dying World
2.39 | 9 ratings
'90 Demo
3.01 | 10 ratings
Demo 1991
3.14 | 9 ratings
Promo 08
3.89 | 77 ratings
3.98 | 103 ratings
Carbon-Based Anatomy
3.62 | 46 ratings
The Portal Tapes

CYNIC Reviews

Showing last 10 reviews only
 Kindly Bent To Free Us by CYNIC album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.55 | 150 ratings

Kindly Bent To Free Us
Cynic Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Prog Leviathan
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Cynic has an epic reputation here on Prog Archives, blending styles from many different places of inspiration to create a sound that is artistic, dense, heavy, and challenging. It's the kind of music that gives fans of modern prog that heady, Crimson-like fix of unapproachable yet enjoyable metal. Some of the fun might come from simply knowing you've got the gusto to enjoy such an obscure and cerebral band as Cynic! Kindly Bent to Us continues that tradition, which sadly will be the group's last album, having "officially" disbanded. Yet, for a band that has produced only 3 albums in more than 20 years, I don't think that's saying much.

I have mixed feelings about Cynic's discography. I didn't care for their first album, but loved their second, Traced in Air. Fortuneteller Kindly Bent to Us isn't quite as good as that second release, but it still has a lot to enjoy. I didn't find it nearly so "experimental" or a "new direction" for the band as others described. Kindly Bent to Us has a lot going for it, it just has a harder time connecting to the listener.

The first thing to note is that overall this album is much more mellow than either of the two that preceded it. While the group's metal sound is intact, it's not as aggressive or powerful. This gives the album a more nuanced feel that is more textural than Focus, yet less complete feeling than Traced in Air. Regardless, this album still offers a high amount of dynamic and tempo changes to explore. From a songwriting perspective, the tracks are structure-less and complex. They aren't schizophrenic, but certainly don't have conventional melodies or rhythms to latch on to. It's the kind of music that demands careful listening, because the disjointed combination of sounds makes for bad background music.

There is a lot of variety crammed into the 40 minute running length, and each song has at least one stunning instrumental moment or artistic hook that pulls you into its web of sounds; though, the second half grab me much more than the first. The band's instrumental playing is very much the standout of the album.

All in all a solid purchase for those who enjoy their metal complex and highly nuanced, though I don't think Kindly Bent to Us will find regular rotation in most people's listening because of it's unapproachable. If you're new to Cynic, check out the more memorable Traced in Air first.

Songwriting: 3 - Instrumental Performances: 4 - Lyrics/Vocals: 2 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 3

 Focus by CYNIC album cover Studio Album, 1993
4.21 | 476 ratings

Cynic Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Prog Leviathan
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Focus is a highly complex, challenging, and cryptic metal album from early in the prog-metal period. It is frequently described as "death metal meets jazz" by other reviewers, but I think this is an over simplification because it probably won't sell a fan of either of those two genres of music alone on the group's sound. Focus isn't heavy, oppressive, or loud enough to be conventional death metal, and it isn't so open-ended or mellow enough to be avant garde jazz. So what the heck is Focus?

Well, it's definitely more metal than anything else. There is a prevalence of chugging, guitar shredding, and growling vocals to lock it firmly into that genre; however, it's very tame compared to "real" metal bands like Slayer or Metallica or (insert "real" metal band here). Focus is noisy and moderately aggressive, but it's not going to destroy you with metal awesomeness. Maybe that's where the jazz comes in? The band strives, and succeeds, to make their flavor of metal highly instrumental and complex. There are countless time/key/dynamic changes within songs, and each of the players is on top of their game. The drumming is one feature that I think distinguishes Focus from other metal bands, Reinert's playing is clear and often the "jazziest" of the bunch; very different sounding for a metal group. As a whole, the quite moments on Focus are more interesting than the real metal ones, which is part of the reason why I enjoyed the more mature Traced in Air than Focus.

Let's talk briefly about the vocals. Yes there are death metal growls; there are also electronically altered singing. Both of which are weak and don't contribute much of anything to the overall effect. It is very difficult to distinguish any of the lyrics, and both singers are surprisingly monotone. This makes the vocals just sort of "there," contributing to the noise of the album in the way that a crying baby contributes to the annoyances of a busy restaurant. It's there, you can ignore it if you're strong enough, or you can focus on it and get frustrated and let it ruin your meal.

You may have heard that Opeth is another of these "death metal for people that hate death metal" bands. Again, this is an over simplification, but I think it's much more true than with Cynics work here. Focus is death metal for math-rock enthusiasts that value technical proficiency and experimentation. Even though short, I found myself happy that it ended when it did.

There are a lot of sounds crammed into this 35 minute album, and if you're interested in instrumental hard rock/metal, then you've found a great album with some amazing playing. That's with the notable caveat that you can tolerate a very noisy and structure less album that lacks emotional touchstones or identifiable lyrics. As a fan of Prog Archives, that's probably OK with you, but be warned: Focus will probably not jump out at the average listener or beg for repeat listening. It's an album that happens whether you want it to or not, and doesn't make much appeal to invite the listener to the party.

Songwriting: 3 - Instrumental Performances: 4 - Lyrics/Vocals: 1 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 2

 Kindly Bent To Free Us by CYNIC album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.55 | 150 ratings

Kindly Bent To Free Us
Cynic Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Necrotica
Prog Reviewer

2 stars Experimentation is one of the riskiest gambles in music, particularly in metal music. On one hand, there's the task of catering to the already established fanbase, but then there's either the hunger to expand that fanbase or to explore completely uncharted territory, usually with varying degrees of success. Most of the time, successful experiments have still managed to receive some sort of backlash from the community, going to show that you can't please everyone. Cynic's second album, Traced in Air, is pretty much the epitome of that phrase in the progressive metal world; while being a fantastic follow-up to the groundbreaking prog/jazz/death metal debut Focus, there was still a certain crowd who didn't think it was "metal enough" or more prominently, "long enough." If you were in the "not metal enough" category, then you're really going to be shocked at their newest effort Kindly Bent to Free Us. Then again, judging by the group's EPs following Traced in Air (Re-Traced and Carbon-Based Anatomy), there was a clear indication that the band were heading toward a softer direction. Hell, Traced in Air was already much lighter than Focus. When you get down to it, experimentation is a refreshing change when it's done well; however, this new record (reinventing Cynic's sound yet again) is nothing short of complete garbage.

Kindly Bent to Free Us is quite aptly named, as the entire experience sounds kinder and gentler than the group's previous records. You'll hear 100%-clean vocals from Paul Masvidal, as well as a more layered, textural sound based heavily on jazz phrasing and chord progressions. While the jazz influence was prominent on Focus and Traced in Air, it really becomes the forefront on this record as most of the guitar chords and bass lines are built around a jazz fusion framework, albeit frequently on the calmer side. However, the first song "True Hallucination Speak" is a bit of a false alarm, its guitar intro being quite atonal and suggesting something a bit more frantic. Even the groove it settles into is pretty technical from an electric guitar and bass standpoint, but then once the vocals enter the picture, everything sorta crumbles. First of all, Paul is not a very engaging singer for this album's more-distorted moments, often making the music underwhelming and pretty awkward. Truthfully, adding a few growls or vocoder singing would possibly have benefited these moments pretty nicely, but as is, the singing's not very fitting.

The music, while not offensively bad, seems really directionless; one of the worst things you can say about an album is that it doesn't leave any impression at all, and this album sadly nails it. "The Lion's Roar" has a verse in the beginning that sounds as if it were lifted straight from "Integral Birth" from the previous album, similar rolling drum beat and all. While it doesn't last long, it gives off a recycled feel about it and seems like a bit of a cop-out. Some song sections sound completely out-of-place and don't match with a given tone. The title track opts to build its dynamics up gradually, leading to an intense climax around the middle, when all of a sudden it just comes to a complete halt. The instruments die down, then drop off completely for a sparse guitar and bass segment before randomly bursting back into the distortion again out of nowhere. Why? Was there any purpose? It certainly didn't flow well, given its placement right in the very middle of the track. Perhaps if it was near the end it would have been able to serve more of a purpose to build to another climax, but it comes off as really awkward and unneeded.

The biggest issue with the album is that everything just becomes a giant blur after only a few minutes of listening. Nothing ever stands out or comes off as being engaging, no matter the dynamics. While "Infinite Shapes" has an extended clean intro that seems welcome to break up the monotony, the distorted portions go right back to the same old jazz chord progressions and the same slow pace. Despite the experimentation on this album, as it consists of more clean sections and even more jazz fusion and soft rock elements, I think the boys in Cynic forgot that it's not just the experimentation that defines an album, but what how you execute it as well. On another note, Sean Reinart's drumming is seriously underplayed here. He usually goes between 6/8 and 4/4 time signatures, and oftentimes his drumwork will simply follow a precise stacatto guitar and bass melody or just keep the rhythm section in check as Paul's lead work and vocals adorn the foreground of the music. Considering how talented Reinart is on the drums, this seems like a serious step back in his work with the band. Hell, despite some solos here and there, even Paul Masvidal is really subdued here as well. It's worth noting that a decent chunk of this album bears a strong resemblance to a certain Cynic side project known as Aeon Spoke, which does indeed focus more on the lighter elements of Paul and Sean's musical influences. This just begs the question: why would Cynic go this far in Aeon Spoke's direction when there's already an Aeon Spoke around? It brings the already-tenuous credibility of Cynic's recent sound change to a pile of rubble. This album is just not worth listening to for any reason other than to hear how far a band can fall in such a short time. This isn't a slight dip in quality, it's an avalanche. As the final track "Endlessly Bountiful" slowly crescendos from a soft progressive rock ballad into a beautiful burst of distortion and energy, one can only wish that this musical epiphany had occurred way earlier in the record. As it calms down and ends with a whimper, it's realized that the album ends the same way as it began... being unmemorable.

(Originally posted on Sputnikmusic)

 Traced In Air by CYNIC album cover Studio Album, 2008
4.13 | 463 ratings

Traced In Air
Cynic Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Necrotica
Prog Reviewer

4 stars There are just some bands who absolutely love to cross the boundaries of musical prowess or creativity, whether a record's revolutionary or just plain amazing. Cynic, Death, and Atheist were a bit of a "Big Three" of progressive death back in the early 90's, but why? Why would they be there, other than being early? Many reasons could come up, but those 3 simply had more creativity and talent at the time. Most technical metal bands today rely heavily on overly clean recording techniques and lots (and I mean lots) of sweep picking and shredding. They almost lost that sort of experimental edge of the early days.

The thing is, Cynic's first release, Focus, embodied that aforementioned experimental edge perfectly and struck a balance between the baffling and the rewarding. So many progheads were astounded at the level of technicality and emotion that went into the record, as well as individual prowess. Plus, the other thing that Cynic (along with Atheist) had that most others don't is the extremely high level of jazz fusion put into the album. The record simply did not disappoint, and it brought in newcomers of progressive music, as well as metal, and remains a legend to this day.

Traced in Air is a bit of a successor, but more of spiritual successor than an actual sequel to the original. Released 15+ years after the original, hype was high, but Cynic knew how to cater to (most) fans while bringing in new ones as well. Cynic knew not to make an easy cash-in, especially after 15 years, as fans would become ridiculously enraged at such a sight after so much anticipation. So what did Cynic do for Traced in Air?

They topped the original.

One thing that received mixed opinions was the level of accessibility this album has, and it is indeed more accessible to listen to. However, that doesn't detract from such an experience as this. The instrumentalists are still top-notch, as is their quality. Paul Masvidal's odd robotic vocals have been swapped for better, more regular vocals. The growls are cleaner as well, and drums are as technical as ever. Now think of that, and, on top of that, cleaner production. You basically get a recipe for success.

The influences on this album are more diverse as well. You'll get some King Crimson here and there, a bit of Rush, some Porcupine Tree, and so on. Cynic spreads these influences out and put in their own signature sound, creating something truly unique and never seen before in progressive metal.

Of course then, you'd need a strong opening, right? Well, the beginning is MUCH different from the one seen previously in Veil of Maya. That one bursts out of the gate, while Nunc Fluens offers more of a traditional prog intro, but has unique synth effects and tribal drumming. The track is somewhat mesmerizing and offers an excellent introduction to the album.

The following songs contain a phenomenal amount of quality, as well as new crazy twists and turns. "The Space for This" has such a dreamy intro with the vocals aiding to that effect, before it builds into an epic riff going to the verse. The same structure goes for "King of Those who Know," one of the highlights of the record. It has female-type vocals to begin, and builds up to an amazing verse.

"Evolutionary Sleeper" is unique all its own, and features some of Paul Masvidal's best vocals as it clocks in at 3:34, one of the shortest tracks. More power to it, as the concise feel of the song is very tight in instrumentation and production. The growls are also featured here, as well as in other places. The chorus is quite dreamy, and then a jazzy solo ends the song. Great stuff.

Now's time to talk about individual talents. First of, it seems that Paul Masvidal has improved tenfold on this album, and it shows. The vocals are a huge plus here, especially on "Integral Birth," which has a bit more of an accessible feel to it. Gone are the weird robotic effects, and now semi-normal vocals take place with the assistance of a digitized "octave voice." His guitar solos are now more concise as well, and still very excellent.

Sean Reinart just destroys the drums here, showing his best performance yet. On "The Space for This," his technical drumming permeates the whole ordeal, while never being too overbearing. He has such a unique and fresh drumming style. The other members keep up as well, too, providing a nice pace for Masvidal and Reinart to shine.

Overall, this album is an odd entity, and one that is truly mind-blowing. Any fan of progressive metal/rock should not miss this, and it's taken a lot more as an experience.

(Originally published on Sputnikmusic)

 Focus by CYNIC album cover Studio Album, 1993
4.21 | 476 ratings

Cynic Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by HoldsworthIsGod

4 stars Let's talk about Death Metal. Normally the guitars are overdriven beyond belief, and the guitars itself have pointy headstocks. Not here. The guitar shifts from clean passages to distorted ones, and the guitars have NO headstocks at all! The lyrics in death metal are usually about necrophilia, murder, and rape, and sound like they're being sung by Cookie Monster with a sore throat. Sure, there's death growls here, but there's also vocoder-processed robot vocals. You won't hear THAT on a Cannibal Corpse record! And the lyrics are meditative, and New Age-y. And in a genre where fans denounce fans of other genres as "gay" or "homos", there are two openly gay members! The standout track is "Veil of Maya", with its synth textures and Allan Holdsworth-inspired solos. Also, "Uroboric Forms" is a heavier song with influences of Death
 Kindly Bent To Free Us by CYNIC album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.55 | 150 ratings

Kindly Bent To Free Us
Cynic Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

4 stars CYNIC puts out exactly what i personally like in a band, namely quality over quantity and absolutely no one can accuse this unique band of flooding the market with throwaway filler. The mystery with CYNIC has always been since releasing their debut album "Focus" and then calling it a day if they would ever put out another bizarre hybrid recording. After 15 years the answer was yes! reappearing with a followup in 2008 with a new sound in with "Traced In Air" which shifted gears a bit but pretty much carried on a lot of what was expected from "Focus" with the unique death metal / jazz / space rock / ambient thing neatly assembled into a nice little package that only this band could create.

Luckily the world would not have to wait another decade and a half for a followup. The band was ready for some serious business and began releasing EPs. With "Re-Traced" we got a taste of CYNIC dropping a huge swath of their metal sound and then with "Carbon-Based Anatomy" where they cemented the toning things down in the metal department by going down an atmospheric post rock and ambient path.

That brings us to their much awaited third album KINDLY BENT TO SAVE US arriving 21 years after the debut and 6 years after their second. Anyone who follows CYNIC should expect the unexpected by now. The band has their influences dipped in so many cocktails that strangeness is guaranteed to emerge in unforeseen ways and ideas evolve as sporadically as their songs shifting from one complex time signature to another with as many tones and styles to match.

KINDLY BENT TO SAVE US may have jettisoned all traces of death metal growls and replaced them with indie rock type vocals but the musical compositions remain as complex if not more so than anything the band has released before. It's too much to grasp on a single listen. This one has taken me a while to appreciate because it is so dense and, well, unique. Of course there is a lot of what came before but on top of the sci-fi and Buddhist inspired lyrics, we get plenty of progressive metal, clean guitars, lots of staccato, complex rhythms that fuse the world of rock and jazz so seamlessly that it deserves some kind of new designated style nomenclature.

Overall, this album is a mixed bag with me. I agree with all the others that this is not as memorable as the first two releases in its scope or intensity but i totally disagree with anyone who writes this off as mere crap. The sophisticated approach on this release is phenomenal. I enjoy every single track musically and the only reason i cannot rate this album higher is because of the vocals of Paul Masvidal which don't have the inspiring effect that the music does. The consistency of the clean style of vocals just seems a bit weak in the mix. I do miss the growls for they added some much needed contrast that matches the music.

If there were to be a huge swath of vocal influences on top of the music maybe like that of bands like Darkology or Hell, then this could have been another full-fledged masterpiece of epic proportions, but that it is not, yet i really enjoy this album a lot despite the disappointment factor and my own desire to micro-manage the project to please myself. Despite it all i am certainly not sorry it was released but i hope they can improve upon this formula in the future.

 Kindly Bent To Free Us by CYNIC album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.55 | 150 ratings

Kindly Bent To Free Us
Cynic Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by FrankPatxi

4 stars Well, the Cynic have come back!! "Kindly Bent To Free Us"(KBFU) follow the previous "Traced in Air" after 6 years. Judging from the final result, the waiting has been well paid, because Paul Masvidal (Vocals, Guitars, Keys, Synth), Sean Malone (Fretless bass, Chapman stick) and Sean Reinert (Drums and Percussion), have performed a very good job. Who knows Cynic knows also they are one of the reference band for the tecnical death metal (together with Death, Atheist, etc.), but during the years the band has explored other aspects and sounds, with the basic style of Cynic always present. With these premises, let's say that KBFU is not like the previous full-lenght; first of all, the growly style for singing has disappeared, so we are quite away from the masterpiece "Focus" (the last year was the 20th anniversary). Maybe this aspect will be not well accepted from someone of the old fans, but is to take in account that in the last releases (The Portal Shape ? EP 2012, Carbon-Based Anatomy ? EP 2010), there's no growl. but as said before, the band is exploring other sounds and musicality. This aspect doesn't means that Cynic are giving a bad album, but rather a different album, as usual from Cynic in each full-lenght release. Speaking more properly of music, there's a lot of different atmospheres and influences, from jazz to fusion till the "new age" in some passages, but the progressive roots are never abandoned and this is the "trademark" of the entire album. The best "episodes" in my opinion are the first track "True Allucination Speak" and the title track (the drum patterns is very nice), just to clarify the ideas. The first part of the album for me, is the best, reminding some 70's prog composition, and the most musical rich part (specially the first 3 songs). The remaining songs are also interesting, as "Moon Heart Sun Head" with 2 atypical guitar solos considering the context, but very interesting for who plays guitar. A special mention goes to Reinert behind the drums, and also to Sean Malone with the Bass Guitar creating a great sound and performance!! I think that as all the great albums, KBFU is an album that need more listenings before to be understood, appreciated. Even if is not a masterpiece like "Focus", KBFU is a modern progressive album that will make happy many progressive music fans. Enjoy!
 Focus by CYNIC album cover Studio Album, 1993
4.21 | 476 ratings

Cynic Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

5 stars This is an album that is guaranteed to piss off the purists. It's not death metal enough. It's not jazz enough. It's not progresesive enough. Waaa! Get over it. This album has taken me a long time to appreciate and not to come off as some BS elitist but geez. Such complex music doesn't hit you upon first listen or even the tenth. Yes. There exists music that takes multiple listens to fully take in to "get." FOCUS, the debut album by CYNIC is one of those such albums. There are definitely hooks to be had on this album but they will surely rub you the wrong way as they unfold unless you are a fan of a multitude of genres of the musical spectrum.

Let's start with metal. They are indeed a metal band but only in amplification, death metal vocals and thrash metal performance of the chords. The chords themselves are firmly placed in the jazz-fusion branch of progressive rock. In fact dare I say that CYNIC is the Mahavishnu Orchestra of extreme metal? Perhaps so. Electronica. God forbid. What are these funky Floridians thinking for frack's sake? Yes, they use a strange electronic embellishment to enhance the vocals but there is also a sound of electronic music mingled in with the wholeness of this project. Sacrilegious? Perhaps. Satisfying because this band knows no arbitrary boundaries? Fer sure.

CYNIC were simply in their own world. They took their influences and put them together in a way they saw fit at the time. Would I have done things differently? Of course. But I am judging this album because this band simply did things their way in a time when that wasn't very popular to do so. This album has become much more popular over time as many a progressive rock album has since its release. What can I say? They melodies are a brilliant mix of melody, harmony, dissonance, brutality, tenderness, accessibility and avant-garde all jumbled together. Yes, it is easy to find faults with this album at first listen because it doesn't measure up to YOUR personal take on how this fusion should have arisen but did you do anything better? If taken on its own merits from the time it was released it is a musical masterpiece that not only takes many listens to fully comprehend but rewards greatly once those walls of "getting it" have fully been broken down.

Genres are simply nomenclature that someone else created to sort things into digestible arenas but when one realizes that music is a series of spectrums that demand careful assignment and occasionally tagged exceptionalism then it is easier to embrace albums such as FOCUS that don't easily fit into any. Upon first listen I liked this album. Upon quite a few I love it. This is not only a cornerstone in metal music but a brilliant piece of art that works on so many levels once a full comprehension of influences has fully been embraced. I hope you don't let your initial impressions impede you from letting this album grow on you. It is one of those rare pieces of music that can take your breath away after countless listens. Absolutely brilliant.

 Focus by CYNIC album cover Studio Album, 1993
4.21 | 476 ratings

Cynic Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by javajeff

5 stars This is nothing short of a prog metal masterpiece. The album is perfect and contains elements of prog and jazz infused with a death metal vibe. The musicianship here is astonishing, and dazzling, and the lyrics are delivered as they alternate between clean and growl vocals. You will not find a 20 minute song or a long album from Cynic, and it is just so disappointing when it is over. Any active prog listening should want more. I love all three of their studio albums, and listen to them straight through in my playlist. This album should not be overlooked by any music lover since there is something for everyone. I bought the Original recording remastered version with Extra tracks, and those tracks are worth it. This is a must buy along with their other two.
 Kindly Bent To Free Us by CYNIC album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.55 | 150 ratings

Kindly Bent To Free Us
Cynic Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Daggor

3 stars I think when the buzz started around Cynic's new album, Kindly Bent To Free Us, I was probably the only one in need of introduction. The band released a legendary album in the early 90s, titled Focus, that existed more in a death metal-inspired world of progressive music, which is probably why it flew under my radar for so long. After its beloved debut, Cynic returned in 2008 with Traced In Air, which by all indications, lived up to 15 years of hype. By this measure, at the time that the band settled in to release Kindly Bent To Free Us, the hype was absolutely through the roof.

All good things come to an end though, and as I was being introduced to Cynic on the first single, "The Lion's Roar," the very thing that caught my attention about the song was at the same time, alienating hordes of fans. Namely that, instead of technical death metal that embraced jazz fusion, I was met with jazz fusion embracing, well, itself really. I recognized that, in spite of a more streamlined genre approach, the band was brimming with talented musicians and interesting ideas, and so as older fans dropped the hype bandwagon, I was more than happy to pick it up myself.

There's something of a curse to hype, of course, and certainly an art form entirely unto itself when choosing which song to introduce new material to listeners with, especially when that new material is a stylistic departure. "The Lion's Roar" gave me indications of up-tempo jazz fusion, but as Kindly Bent To Free Us really unfolds, so much more of the release is somber, with post-rock leanings. The closing track, "Endlessly Bountiful", in particular stands almost exclusively on the vocal textures of Paul Masvidal's tastefully overproduced voice.

The band is actually much stronger with its more subtle passages, interlaced throughout the record, than the overt melodies that made "The Lion's Roar" the standout single that it was, and yet even as Cynic showed itself as being, in fact, more talented than what originally attracted me to the album, I still find its style to be one that is very difficult to fully appreciate. There's a lot of melodic recursion throughout the record, and as framing devices, they're absolutely wonderful. However, the juxtaposition of the different styles is difficult for me to wrap my head around. Similarly, there's moments like on "True Hallucination Speak," where the atmosphere of the song feels like it's aiming to be quite profound, except I'm hearing "Pop, pop snap crackle and pop," and now I'm thinking about breakfast cereal.

Kindly Bent To Free Us is tremendously successful at accomplishing Cynic's "loftier" artistic ambitions, and there's no lack of talent or tact, but on the bottom end I find it difficult to access, and lacking in a more simple appeal to accentuate the more intricate and advanced brilliance. While I can appreciate the accomplishments that Cynic achieves, I'm just not enjoying them very much.

3.0 // 5

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